The Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center or SEEC, as it is commonly called, was founded in 1988. It is currently housed in two locations at the National Museum of Natural History and another, at the National Museum of American History. The school serves children ages 3 months – 6 years and boasts a staff of early childhood educators, art educators, a music educator, a resident scientist and a department of 4 museum educators.
It might seem odd for an early learning center to have a museum education department, but it makes a lot of sense when you consider all that museums have to offer young audiences. And because of SEEC’s location on the National Mall, it is able to integrate the museum into the fabric of our students’ daily experiences. Children are naturally curious and museums offer an ideal setting for them to explore, investigate and learn. Encountering an object helps a child solidify their understanding of a concept and it sparks their imagination. Whether it’s a trip to the National Zoo to see the snakes, a visit to the Castle to explore architecture or a stop at the Hirshhorn to see examples of modern art, the children are exposed to a variety of disciplines and ideas.
So, what do museum educators do here at SEEC?
- We educate students within SEEC and the larger community – using methods unique to young learners.
- We are a conduit between our classroom educators and the museums.
- We maintain and offer resources to support the classroom in the form of hands-on objects, prints and books
- We provide high quality research and information on objects within the collections and assist our classroom educators in framing that information in a developmentally appropriate way.
- We plan special programs within SEEC and for museums across the country.
- We have a unique understanding of museums and early childhood development and combine those perspectives to offer training to early childhood and museum educators.
- We believe that young children can benefit from museums and we hope to encourage museum professionals to embrace them as an audience. Similarly, we hope to encourage early childhood educators to see the museum as an informal learning environment for their students.
Our hope is that our blog will open a larger dialogue about early learning and museums. Please join us and share your thoughts!